Have you ever come into the middle of a conversation, and it sounds really interesting, and you try to get what everyone is talking about, from the context?
I mean, first you are quiet and you just nod your head, “mmhhm, mmhhm,” and you hope no one has noticed you have just inserted yourself. Inside you are scrambling to piece it all together. But, at some point you realize there is just too much you don’t know, you have too few puzzle pieces for you to understand what’s going on.
I think that is how we hear the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We try to get why this event is so momentous it shows up in all four gospels as the commencement of Passion Week. But, there is just too much important background information that is missing for us to really grasp the importance—and symbology—of what was happening in this scene.
First, we will look at the passage, then I am going to tell you four stories, so you will have all you need to understand what is going on. Then we will go back to the passage and piece it all together.
(There was something going on with my microphone, so throughout this talk you will hear glitches. Hopefully, the talk itself will overcome that minor annoyance)
Triumphal Entry, Mark 11:1-11 Grace and Peace, Joanne
In order to really get what this passage is about, you’ll need to look in a mirror for a few minutes. First, before you look in the mirror (maybe have it behind you), hold your hands above and below your head until you can just see them with your peripheral vision.
Turn to look at the hand above, so you can really see it.
Can you see your other hand anymore?
Move your other hand up just enough so you can just see it with your peripheral vision.
Okay, now, as you keep your hands in that position, turn around and look in the mirror.
Notice the position of your hands.
Your hands represent a perspective—you can see some things, but you can’t see all things.
By turning to your higher hand, you lost sight of your lower hand, and had to move it. You have to literally give up seeing some things so you are able to see other things.
Hang on to that. This is exactly what Mark has been trying to get to with this chapter, and with the lesson of Bartimaeus. You’ll see this same lesson echoed throughout the ChristianBible.
In the passage that comes before this one, Mark talked about a scribe who had asked Jesus about the greatest commandment. And he was impressed with Jesus’ answer.
Jesus was also pleased. He told the scribe he was very close to entering the kingdom of heaven. With such a warm endorsement from a scribe, this was a rare teachable moment. The right moment, in today’s passage, for Jesus to talk about Messiah. And to teach His disciples the difference between a false reading, and a true reading of scripture.
In this half-hour video, I’ll give a talk that falls into three divisions:
I Christ for the World, Mark 12:35-37
II Court of the Women, Mark 12:38-40
III Coins of the Widow, Mark 12:42-44
At the end of this teachable moment Jesus had with His disciples, you and I will learn that the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.
It is God’s pleasure to give to us. Then, real lovers of God, worship Him by joyfully sharing His spiritual and material wealth with others. In this way, they uphold the receiver’s dignity and deflects attention from the giver.
What do you and I have that we can now see God is calling us to share with someone else, as a matter of generous love towards God Himself? This kind of sharing ends up making all of us richer.
The Widow’s Mite Mark 12:35-44 Grace and Peace, Joanne YouTube Channel
Yet, first century Christians continued to struggle and wrestle with this very difficult issue, so both Peter and Paul helped them by explaining Jesus’ teaching. Peter said, “For the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution.” Paul summed it up like this:
Believers render to all what is due them
In fact, the whole verse says,
Render to all what is due them: taxes to whom taxes are due, respect to whom respect is due, fear to whom fear is due, and honor to whom honor is due.”
Romans 13:7 (NIV)
Every believer has a dual citizenship: in the country you live in and in the kingdom of God. Even when our government does not govern the way we feel is wise, or good, or even honest, it still regulates and stems crime, and promotes the public welfare.
You and I are obligated to pay our taxes, to be mindful of the laws and rules we arecalled to uphold, and to be involved in the process of public policy making by voting.
This is rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.
Jesus Himself paid His temple tax even though He was Lord of the temple and Lord of the Sabbath. We also have responsibilities to our families, and to our work. We are to be people of integrity, being honest in our labors, doing what is right, even at personal cost, even when we do not always agree with those who are in authority over us. God requires us to do what is right.
Jesus gave a great answer, really.
That’s not what left the Sanhedrin’s delegation drop-jawed—‘utterly amazed,’ as Mark described them.
What took their breath away is what Jesus said in-between the lines. Give a listen, and find out how . . .
Did you ever have a sense of destiny? What about childhood promises you made to yourself—when I grow up, I will always have a clean house, or I will never get hurt again, or I will make all my own decisions. Childhood dreams and childhood vows drive us a lot more than we realize. In this YouTube talk, we’re going to see how the disciples’ theology drove them a lot more than they realized, too.
Recap: So, this chapter began on a high mountain, both figuratively and physically. Peter, James., and John had the transcendent experience of seeing Jesus glory, conversing with Moses and Elijah, and hearing God speak personally to them to listen to Jesus, God the Son. Very soon after, Jesus and these three found themselves in a valley, again, figuratively and physically. From their peak spiritual experience, they found themselves plunged into the chaos of overwhelmed disciples, a demon-possessed boy, an angry crowd, and a desperate father.
Evidently, there was a house nearby. Jesus took His disciples aside, once they’d entered the building, to explain why they’d experienced such failure in casting out the demon. This is where Mark picked up the narrative, again.
Seasoned With Salt Mark 9:30-50
[Jesus in Peter’s house | James Tissot, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain]
I’ve felt it and I’m sure you have too. It’s hard to worship the Lord when watching my church service online from home. It’s not like being at church and worshipping in the midst of a lot of people. Much like when we watch a sporting event or the evening news, we can become a spectator to an online worship service rather than a worshipper of the Lord God Almighty.
What if this “virus crisis” isn’t over soon? How can we change from being a spectator to an “online worshipper”? The answer may depend on what we consider being an “online worshipper”.
For example, how did Paul and Silas become worshippers of God while in a Philippian jail cell with their feet locked in the stocks? This was right after they had been beaten with rods. The Bible says they were praying and singing hymns at midnight and the other prisoners were listening to them. How could they worship in those awful circumstances? There was no worship band, no hymnals, no worship leaders. They weren’t even comfortable at home in front of their TV, but in a hostile environment instead.
I believe it’s because they had learned to be “online worshippers”. They had learned to tune in to the worship service that goes on in heaven and never stops. See Revelations 4 for more about that worship service. Regardless of their circumstances and where they were, they were able to pull away from their environment and focus on their audience of One. Rather than seeing just themselves, they were able to see the rest of heaven that they were joining in worship. They were going online in a spiritual sense.
This is what our Christian family must do in countries that are hostile to the gospel. If they are caught, they will be beaten, fined and jailed. So, they must worship quietly, sometimes in strict silence, but going “online” in their hearts and minds to join the heavenly worship service that never ends.
How can we learn to worship earnestly, a/k/a “online” like Paul and Silas and our spiritual family in hostile countries? Primarily, we have to learn that worship is a matter of our heart. Jesus has to be someone more than we just know about. He has to be someone we love and that we long for. If He isn’t that for you, pray right now and ask Him to become that for you. Then make it your goal to live like He is your “first love”. If you want me to explain more about that, let me know at email@example.com.
Beyond our heart, here are some other practical suggestions:
Put away your phone, tablet and anything else that may distract you. You wouldn’t be messing with them while trying to worship God at church. Don’t do it while worshipping at home either.
If you stand up and worship at church, stand up at home.
Sing when its time to sing. Don’t just watch others sing. Your audience of One is watching you. He’s not listening to how good you sing. He’s listening to your heart and mind.
Prepare for online church. Just like you would go to bed on time and get up in time to shower, shave, eat and then drive to church, don’t stay up late the night before binge watching Netflix. Get to bed and get up on time so you have time to prepare to be ready to participate in online church without distractions of a hungry stomach, morning breath or bed head.
If you have kids, help them to prepare too. Talk about how you are looking forward to worshipping Jesus during online church. Share that all of you are going to act like the people on TV are actually in your house visiting you. If your kids are really young and must have attention, give them your attention. Hold them and worship like you would if they were sitting with you at your normal church service.
The Lord willing, the virus crisis will end soon, and we will resume going to our churches to worship. Perhaps this time of “online worshipping” will help us learn to push out distractions that we can avoid. Perhaps we will learn to focus on worshipping the Lord despite distractions that we can’t avoid. Finally, perhaps we will learn to go online no matter our circumstances or wherever we are to join the worship service that never ends.
Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. Psalm 139: 4
We all do it; try to read people’s minds. Some people do it better than others, but no one gets it right 100% of the time. And do we really want someone to read our mind?
A battered wife thinks her abusive husband can read her mind, that he knows what she is doing even when he isn’t around. She lives in fear, walking on eggshells. It destroys her mental and emotional equilibrium.
An argument between husband and wife starts over mindreading. Either he thinks he knows what she is thinking or why she said what she said, or vice versa. Miscommunication – it happens lots in close quarters where one prides oneself in reading another person’s mind. Protective walls go up!
Or maybe you think no one thinks about you at all. You are not even on the radar screen of someone’s thoughts, let alone having them read your mind. No one remembers you, thinks about you, cares about you. You are all alone in the world. You think maybe it would be better to not be in it.
But the One who made you thinks about you all the time. He knows you intimately. So intimately he knows what your thoughts are even before you voice them. And because he is God, he knows the heart of man, he gets it right every time. And it’s not even intrusive knowledge. You still have your space. Cool, huh!
God’s hearing is symbolic of his knowledge of us, his understanding and love for us. And because he knows us so intimately, understands us so well, he knows what we need and when we need it. And unlike that spouse who only thinks they know why we said what we said, God knows why because he looks at the heart. He knows the heart of man. He knows when we are in turmoil and when we are happy and all is in order. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows what we are going to say, even before it is said.